For more than five decades, sculptor Mel Kendrick has created visual puzzles by taking things apart and putting them back together again. The resulting works invert spatial oppositions, giving dimension to feelings of inner conflict.
The artist’s retrospective, “Seeing Things in Things,” is an invitation to enjoy the traces of this conflict, which can be found in every gap, slip, and break of the art on display. While fundamentally abstract, early pieces such as Nemo, 1983, and Sculpture No. 2, 1991, flirt with figuration, transforming solid blocks of wood into forms that want to move and grow. The sculptures of the past twenty years, however, are far more distilled, reflecting an artist more willing to consider the material constraints of his medium. In Untitled (Green Block), 2007, Kendrick starts by drawing a web of calligraphic lines across each side of a hewn block of wood; the lines serve as a blueprint for cutting into the whole. The internal parts are then removed and placed on top of the remaining structure. The result is a mirrorlike sculpture where a negative image projects its solid counterpart, crossing a line of division embedded within each form. More recently, in Double Lock, 2015, and Standing Block (Black Concrete), 2020, Kendrick has applied the same procedure to expanded polystyrene, which he used to cast the results in black concrete. These sculptures are more self-contained, absorbing the heat of their surroundings and transmitting a solemn calm.
Like Narcissus gazing down at his reflection, the sculptures’ empty and solid forms create both harmonious and uneasy images. Infinite variations emerge, some coherent and some less so, yet each one makes the case that opposition is not something to be overcome, but something to be sustained and enjoyed.
— David Whelan